Secretariat begins discussing new synod process with bishops

Bishops synod process

In preparation for the next world Synod of Bishops, leaders of the synod’s general secretariat held online meetings to discuss the process with the presidents and general secretaries of national and regional bishops’ conferences.

Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary of the synod, and the office’s two undersecretaries, Xaviere Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart and Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, held the meetings June 14-18 in sessions divided by language.

Revisions to the synod process were announced May 21. Pope Francis asked that it begin with consultations with lay people on the diocesan level. The discussion and discernment would then move to a national level and then the 2023 synod assembly itself.

“Without this consultation, there would be no synodal process, because the discernment of pastors, which constitutes the second phase, emerges from listening to the people of God,” Grech had explained in May.

After the first couple of meetings with leaders of bishops’ conferences, the cardinal said the reaction was “surprising, very positive, and there is a lot of enthusiasm among the bishops we have heard.”

Grech told Vatican News, not much is set in stone. “We have some general ideas, but we are open, as this is not a fixed process. We are listening to our partners because the synod is not a project of the secretariat but of the church.”

The expanded consultation, listening and discernment, he said, is the desire of Francis. But it is based on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that the church is the people of God.

The Synod, which presents itself as a real “synodal time”, will be opened by Pope Francis on 9-10 October 2021.

The synodal journey will then be marked by three phases:
– a diocesan phase (October 2021 – April 2022) during which each individual faithful can participate in the diocesan consultation. This phase will end locally with a pre-synodal assembly: the culminating moment of diocesan discernment;
– a national phase during which discernment will be entrusted mainly to the Episcopal Conferences;
– a continental phase (September 2022 – March 2023) which will discuss the text of the first Instrumentum Laboris.

Finally, the synodal journey will culminate with the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”


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